Liverpool’s former WBO Super-Welter king Liam Smith is a hard, hard man from a hard, hard family; one of a quartet of prizefighting brothers who’ve all won British titles.
On Saturday week at Manchester Arena, 28 year old ‘Beefy’ wages an Anglo-Welsh war with valley commando Liam Williams to settle an escalating debate as to who is Britain’s ‘top dog’ at 11st.
Speaking to Glynn Evans on Wednesday afternoon, the kid reared on some of the meanest streets in the ‘Witty City’ insists he’ll not be found wanting, physically or psychologically, when these toughest of tough guys collide in their ‘pick ‘em’ shoot out.
‘Kirkdale was a very rough, inner city area and, I don’t care what Williams says, it was a lot worse than his valleys; a proper breeding ground for fighters.
‘Around my time, in addition to us four brothers, you had Kirkdale lads like Neil Perkins, Joseph McNally, Declan O’Rourke who were all national amateur champions. And that’s just one district. It was rough but it’s a great area and I still command a really good following from those streets today.
‘Boxers have always been held in high regard around these streets. As a kid I remember all the commotion when (local super-lightweights) Shea Neary and Andy Holligan had their big fight in Stanley Park. Our Paul was massive into it but, back then, I weren’t a boxing fan. I was more interested playing footy in the streets and being a nuisance!
‘I was actually last of the four brothers to start boxing – even though Callum is younger – but I was always known for being a tough lad. I was never the tallest but always a bit chunky; hence ‘Beefy’. I only thinned out when I got older and began the boxing training.
‘ I was ‘cock of the school’ from the juniors - I remember having to beat up this kid to ‘earn’ that – then, when we had an open day before joining the senior school, I had to fight this kid from a rival school to prove who was hardest; won that one as well!
‘I was definitely the bad one of us four brothers. Me mum and dad always say they had to move the family out of Kirkdale because of me, to get me away from the bad crowd I was starting to associate with as a teenager. They were afraid I’d get locked up. Today we live in Aintree.
‘I was getting brought home in police cars because I’d been smashing windows and other stupid stuff. Back then, I used to think it was a laugh to throw stones at taxis and get the drivers to chase after me.
‘Fighting all me brothers indoors also stood me in good stead, growing up. Though I was last to start the boxing, they’ll all tell you that, while they were fitter and better technically, I was tougher than the lot of them on the cobbles. If me mum needed to send one of us outside to ‘sort’ something, it was usually me that was chosen.
‘To be honest, I only started boxing at the Rotunda gym when I was 14 so I could have a fight with two of my school mates who’d started at the Kirkdale gym. They quit shortly after, before the fights could be made!
‘Amateur boxing has always been a big thing in Liverpool and in the Rotunda, the Solly (Salisbury ABC), Everton Red Triangle, Kirkdale, Gemini, Tower Hill, Long Lane, we’ve some of the best gyms in Britain, delivering national champions year after year.
‘The streets of Liverpool will always produce quality boxers because it’s THE fighting city. Everyone up here loves a tear-up. Right now, there’s a real buzz about the city regarding our fighters. I was the first world champion since ‘Hoko’ (Paul Hodkinson) 22 years ago and, before him, there’d only been John Conteh. Today, ‘Bomber’ (Tony Bellew) is carrying it on.
‘These days, you don’t want to start putting your name out there because there’s always some **** who’ll stick a knife in your back or shoot ya but the Smith family always had a lot of respect in this city, still do. We’re not bullies, we’ve got respect and manners but me dad and us four brothers come as a pretty hard ‘package’. We don’t take any messin’!’